The Pros and Cons of Web-Based Operating Systems

By Ronald Pacchiano | Posted August 30, 2011

Web-based operating systems, such as Google’s Chrome OS, and new Chromebooks -- notebooks built around the Chrome OS -- have both received a lot of attention in the press. The question is do they make sense for small business?

If you haven’t heard of Chrome OS, then maybe you’re familiar with the Chrome Web browser? The Chrome OS is essentially a bootable version of the Chrome Web browser, and it replaces a traditional operating system like Windows.

Unlike most operating systems, Chrome OS stores all of a user’s applications and data on the Web, as opposed to a local hard drive. Although much more limiting then a traditional operating system, a browser-based OS offers huge advantages that can make it a compelling option for small businesses.  Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons. 

The Advantages of a Web-based OS

Chromebooks start up quickly -- in about 10 -15 seconds -- which is significantly faster than any Windows PC. Plus, their impressive battery life lets you work an entire day on a single charge. More importantly, Chromebooks practically eliminate time-consuming IT tasks such as building system images, troubleshooting small business software or spending hours cleaning virus-infected systems.


Moreover, with all of a user’s data and applications relegated to the cloud, employee responsibilities such as maintaining the latest virus definitions, updating software or even performing daily backups are now automatically managed by Google. And, since a computer with a browser-based OS stores everything on the Web, data loss due to damage or to a lost or stolen computer is all but eliminated.

In fact, moving to new hardware involves nothing more than turning on the new machine and logging in. No need to transfer data, reinstall applications or even wait for IT assistance.

What we find most attractive about this concept, though, is how cost effective it could be. Google -- making a hard push to get people to buy into the benefits of a browser-based OS -- claims that companies can reduce their total cost of ownership by up to 70 percent over traditional PCs.

To that end, Google is offering small businesses and non-profit organizations the capability to lease Chromebooks in bulk for $28 a month per user. Educational institutions receive an even better deal at only $20 a month.

That price includes tech support, rapid hardware replacement, automatic background updates, a Web-based management console for IT professionals (for managing users, apps, and policies), and a hardware refresh every three years. For many businesses, potential savings of that magnitude are hard to ignore and definitely bear further investigation.

In spite of how good a deal this might be, not everyone will or should transition to this platform (graphics designers, accountants and architects come to mind). But if your employees only need to browse the Web, access email, and use typical office applications like a word processor, spreadsheet or presentation software, then a browser-based OS like Chrome OS might work for your business.

Google estimates that most companies will be able to transition approximately 75 percent of their employees over to its platform. Additional applications are available via the Chrome App Store. And before you ask, yes Angry Birds is available.



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